In my first post, I explained the passages that I cling to that tell me "who" a Christian is. This post is about "how" Christians should live and the ramifications of teaching and encouragement I've received as well as what I've found in God's Word. I have found that when you are a Christian there are many sermons, books, teachers, and even friends and family who want to tell us how we "should" live. With so many messages pouring in, it is easy to get overwhelmed and find one's self with a twisted idea of how we are to live and why. Christians can end up with a very long and heavy list of "shoulds" that weigh them down. For years, I've loved this passage from Ecclesiastes 3:13, but couldn't fully articulate the rest of my "why" it's okay for Christians to enjoy life and things in this world.
The Amish emulate the idea of living a pure life by cutting out the things of this world because they believe it will keep them from being stained by the world. Their support for this (according to the website Got Questions?org) is James 1:26-27 26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless.27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. The Amish are shunned and punished if they violate the lists of do's and don'ts that the church has. They believe that their good works earn them God's favor and that they can lose their salvation if they stray or fall from grace. But, the Word tells us very clearly that we are saved by grace through faith that we might not boast of our own works. In our humanness, we want assurance that we are doing things "right". It's hard to trust in God's work alone, but it is essential--and Biblical. In our humanness, we can fall into that belief that it's all up to me. Yet, God says it isn't. Our beliefs about salvation drastically effect our answers to the question of "How should we live?" If we believe we are saved grace, we can fight the legalistic lists of shoulds and live by grace--glorifying God and thanking him without constantly condeming ourselves. If we believe that we are saved in whole or any part by our own efforts, we have no choice but to condemn ourselves when we fall short. This is wrong.
I have also clung to this passage:
that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.
In these passages, I see an underlying joy in life and in people--and in fact a contentment that includes enjoyment--an enjoyment rooted in thankfulness and appreciation of God (what he's done and is doing).
Is it okay for Christians to read a fiction book? Is it okay to enjoy meat and sweets? Is it okay to watch movies and television shows? Yes, I believe it is. We can enjoy them with a joy that is rooted in our faith. When seeing these things carries our hearts and veers towards lust and sexual immorality, then we need to be careful and steer clear. But, there is a danger that can also enter when we avoid these things altogether in the name of purity. See I Timothy 5:23... (No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.) and I timothy 4:3-5.
1 Timothy 4:3-5 English Standard Version (ESV)
3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.4 Foreverything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
In my ESV study Bible, there is a note about I Timothy 5:23 that says there was a twisting of the idea of purity and so this was mentioned and it pointed me back to I Timothy 4:3-5
I John 2:15-17 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. When I read this passage a week ago and reflected on the enjoyment I had when I looked at the pictures in my portfolio, I realized something. I'm not loving the world when I enjoy photography and photographs, a movie, or music--rather I'm loving the God who made what's in the pictures, who gave us sound and sight and I'm enjoying what He's given us. I'm not loving the world. I'm loving God. But, I am enjoying the world that he's given us. In Pilgrim's Progress, Christian is burdened by a pack that is his sin and he leaves it at the cross at the end of the story. But, I would like to use that same image as a picture of what happens to Christians burdened by the guilt of how they "should" live. We can leave that bag at the cross and accept the gift of God's grace and instead live a life of love and marked by thankfulness to Christ. We can enjoy what God has given us. A few months ago, we got a foam mattress topper for our bed. I haven't slept well in twelve years. We got a new mattress last year, but it was actually worse. But, when I learned that not getting good sleep could have a significant deleterious effect on my health, I resolved to figure out what to do. So, I got a 4" mattress topper and foam pillows for my husband and me. It was so much more comfortable. Now, I want to lay down and go to sleep each night! Each night and each morning I am thankful for my bed and for sleep. Two weeks ago, I got a book about zentangles to review. I sat down and started doodling. It was fun--and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the shapes and lines that came together. I erased some and went back to change what I did to begin with until I liked the final result. It's a process like everything else. Last Saturday, I sat with my three children and enjoyed drawing with them. I enjoyed seeing what they created and how the pictures came out of their heads. I enjoyed seeing the creativity--that God has given them. I enjoyed being. I am thankful that the Lord helped me sort through what has been troubling. I feel free again to enjoy the life that the Lord has given me. I want to glorify Him in what I say and do and praise him and thank him as I enjoy eating, sleeping, reading, drawing, watching, talking, sharing, and living. There's this peace in my heart now because I found an answer to my question. We are to live and love. We are to enjoy God and his creation. We are not locked in a cage of "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts".